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PF v David Llewellyn
Aug 31, 2022
On sentencing, Sheriff Reith said:
"Mr Llewellyn, I required to sentence you in relation to two complaints. The first complaint is in relation to Mr George Galloway and the second complaint is in relation to Mr Angus Robertson, MSP, and his wife Mrs Jennifer Robertson. I have taken into account the information in the social work report and all that I have been told on your behalf by Mr. Wilson in relation to the offences of which you have been found guilty and all the relevant circumstances, including your personal circumstances.
Although deletions have been made in relation to the offences concerning both Mr Galloway and Mr and Mrs Robertson, the offences of which you have been convicted nevertheless remain really quite serious ones.
In relation, first of all, to the offence concerning Mr Galloway, he found it distressing that people standing for democratic elections could be subjected to the kind of treatment to which he was subjected by you between July and October 2020. He felt that the person who hated him this much would be capable of more, and it was the totality of what he described as being “this offensive” which had been launched by you against him which had caused him fear and alarm.
Having seen and heard Mr Galloway in evidence, I was satisfied that the fear and alarm about which he told the court was genuine.
In relation to the offence concerning Mr and Mrs Robertson, this involved the Facebook post on 5th January 2021. I was satisfied that, reading the post as a whole, it was not just a political metaphor or political satire. I was satisfied, as was submitted by the procurator fiscal depute at trial, that the plain meaning of the words was to the effect that it was time for both Mr and Mrs Robertson to have violence visited upon them in the form of being dumped in the Water of Leith, and that the message had a sinister tenor to it.
This was a publicly accessible post which Mr and Mrs Robertson saw when they were both at a medical facility in Leith having a scan in relation to their second child. Both gave evidence to the effect that the post caused them fear or alarm and, in my assessment, that is exactly what I am satisfied would have been the likely effect on any reasonable person.
Freedom of speech is of course a cornerstone of our democratic society. However, the words and images used here went well beyond legitimate disagreement or fair political commentary or parody. One of the reasons why this was so obvious was that the post was also threatening in relation to Mrs Robertson who is not the holder of any political or public office and was not a candidate for one. She described how she had felt scared on seeing what she had read as being threatening. As Mr Robertson put it, the publicly accessible post was not a benign one.
Whilst it is entirely legitimate for people to disagree, it is not acceptable to engage in a course of conduct which causes fear or alarm or to behave in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause others to suffer fear or alarm. Unfortunately, you crossed that line in both cases and the court now requires to mark and punish these activities - and to send a message to anyone else who might be contemplating such activities that, if they too cross the line, any such behaviour will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.
The nature and gravity of the two offences of which you have been convicted each merit consideration of custody. Your last conviction was 17 years ago. I have therefore considered whether there is any alternative to custody which would be appropriate. If you had been fit for unpaid work, I would have imposed a community payback order with unpaid work in each case as a direct alternative to custody. That would have enabled you to make recompense to the community for the offences which you have committed. However, it is clear from the social work report that you have various health issues as a result of which you have been assessed as being unsuitable for unpaid work. That being so, I have had to consider whether there is any other alternative disposal which would be appropriate. In the light of the information in the social work report, the only realistic alternative in your case is a structured deferred sentence. I have therefore decided that, in all the circumstances, this is the most appropriate course to take. I will defer sentence on you in both cases for a period of one year until Thursday 31 August 2023 at 9.30am for two purposes, first of all for the preparation of a supplementary social work report in relation to both cases and, second, for you to be of good behaviour. The Crown is therefore to provide the Court with a Good Behaviour Report for the next calling of both cases on 31 August 2023. I will then consider the issue of sentence in both cases afresh at that point in the light of the information then available.
Bail is continued in the meantime in the Robertson case, and you will continue to be ordained in the Galloway case in view of the fact that I have not been told about any further misconduct towards Mr Galloway since your last offence. I will also continue consideration of the Crown application for a non-harassment order in relation to each case until 31 August 2023."